Colorado Joins 43 Other States in Lawsuit Alleging Generic Drug Manufacturers Conspired to Inflate Prices

The Denver Post

Colorado is one of 44 states that filed a lawsuit Friday against generic drug manufacturers alleging they violated state and federal laws by conspiring to fix prices and stop competitors, resulting in generic drug costs significantly going up.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, alleges that 20 pharmaceutical companies — including Teva Pharmaceutical, Sandoz, Mylan and Pfizer — “embarked on one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States.”

Teva and other companies raised prices between July 2013 and January 2015 on about 112 generic drugs — some with price increases of more than 1,000 percent, according to the complaint. The lawsuit called it an overarching conspiracy that attempted to thwart competition in the generic drug industry and resulted in inflated drug prices.

“This conduct has resulted in many billions of dollars of overcharges to the Plaintiff States and others, and has had a significant negative impact on our national health and economy,” the lawsuit stated.

The state of Connecticut began investigating the skyrocketing drug prices, leading to the lawsuit and other states signing onto it.

The lawsuit asks for a stop to the alleged illegal practices, civil penalties and an unspecified amount in damages.

The companies coordinated with each other and systematically fixed prices, divided market shares and rigged bids for the drugs, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office in a news release.

The inflated prices of the generic drugs encompassed various types of drugs used to treat numerous diseases, including basic infections, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV, ADHD and others.

“The conspiracy was wide-ranging and well-orchestrated, characterized by a number of blatant acts to cover up the agreement to limit competition between direct competitors,” the news release stated.

A representative for Teva Pharmaceutical USA Inc. did not immediately return a request for comment Sunday. A spokesman for Teva, a subsidiary of Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Teva refuted the allegations.

“The allegations in this new complaint, and in the litigation more generally, are just that — allegations,” Kelley Dougherty, a Teva vice president, said in the statement to the AP. “The company delivers high-quality medicines to patients around the world and is committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations in doing so.”

Fifteen senior executives were also named in the lawsuit, which alleges that the executives knew what they were doing was unlawful — and tried to cover up communications — but continued to share pricing information and business plans, violating antitrust laws.

“Many Coloradans are struggling to pay for the prescription drugs they need to treat disease or maintain their health. This complaint presents strong and convincing evidence about how the generic drug industry created and enforced a culture of collusion to perpetrate a multi-billion dollar fraud on consumers,” Weiser said in the release.

He added that the companies need to be held accountable for their actions, and he called the case “breath-taking both on account of its impact on consumers and the brazen conduct undertaken by the defendants.”

The news release cites a 2017 Colorado Health Access survey that noted more than 500,000 Colorado residents didn’t fill prescriptions that year because of costs. The inflated costs also affected Medicare and Medicaid, according to the release.

Another lawsuit filed in 2016 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is also pending, and two former executives entered into settlement agreements.

Read more on DenverPost.com


Colorado AG Wants To Crack Down On Robocalls: ‘Getting Worse And Worse’

DENVER (CBS4)

By Kelly Werthmann

March 11, 2019

- Do you get a lot of calls from unknown numbers? Are scammers blowing up your phone? You’re not alone.

“I get them all the time. It’s bogus!”

“I block the number and then another number gets me. It’s annoying.”

“I get nervous it’s my friend in trouble, but then it ends up being a scam.”

Various cellphone users told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann they receive robocalls several times a week, if not multiple times a day. It’s a frustrating issue and one Colorado’s attorney general is trying to stop.

“The scammers are getting more and more sophisticated,” Phil Weiser said. “We need to stop the spoofing where they pretend to be calling from our neighborhoods.”

Weiser has joined a bipartisan coalition of more than 50 attorneys general in supporting the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The TRACED Act requires phone carriers to implement technology to identify who’s behind the scam calls.

“It gives both the FCC and the federal and state law enforcement tools to crack down on the robocalls,” Weiser explained. “Right now the technology is not in place to figure out where the calls are coming from. We need help.”

Among other things, the TRACED Act prioritizes efforts to ensure phone carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN, a technology that would substantially assist consumers in filtering and blocking unwanted robocalls and other phone-based spam. The legislation also establishes an Interagency Working Group that would enable Colorado to coordinate more closely with federal regulators in combating this crisis.

Last year, Coloradans received an estimated 120 million robocalls—averaging out to more than 20 such calls per Colorado resident. Weiser said robocalls are the number one complaint to his office.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” he said. “In 2019, half of all phone calls are expected to be scam robocalls.”

In the middle of his interview with CBS4, Weiser received a call from an unknown number. He had a good feeling it was a scam and his conversation with the person on the other end seemed to prove him right.

“Hello, what is your name, sir, and phone number to look up your information?” the caller asked.

“You just called me,” Weiser replied.

“Yes, to verify please,” the woman responded.

“Why do you need my name?” Weiser questioned. “You just called me.”

“Um, to verify the information, sir,” she said.

“What are you selling,” Weiser asked.

“We’re not selling anything, sir,” the woman replied.

“Why did you call me?” he asked.

“Alright, thank you so much for your time. Bye bye,” the woman said before hanging up.

Weiser said he’s received several robocalls like that, including one that he said made him very angry.

“I’ve been called actually being threatened with jail, and I’m the attorney general,” he said. “I was so pissed off I wanted to basically get the person talking, but as soon as these people know who you are they hang up.”

All the more reason, Weiser added, the TRACED Act is necessary to help authorities trace back to the scammer. Supporters of the TRACED Act hope it will help the federal government and law enforcement agencies find the scammers and fraudsters and potentially prosecute them.

“That way the feds can say to us here in Colorado, ‘There’s a scammer located in Colorado, you can go after them and prosecute them with criminal fraud,’” Weiser said. “Right now I don’t have the tools to get that information.”

Weiser said the TRACED Act is still in its introductory phase, so it will likely be some time before any kind of technology is in place to help consumers and authorities identify robocalls. In the meantime, Weiser warns everyone to be skeptical of unknown callers and to not answer any calls from numbers they don’t recognize.

Read more on CBS4 here


Colorado to Join 19 States in Lawsuit to Stop Federal Abortion “Gag Rule”

The Denver Post

Colorado is joining 19 states and the District of Columbia in filing a lawsuit to stop the so-called abortion “gag rule” changes to a federal grant program that provides reproductive health care services, including cancer screenings and contraception.

The lawsuit, which is being led by Oregon, is expected to be filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., according to a news release from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. A spokesperson for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office confirmed the state will join the suit.

The legal action seeks to stop rule changes being made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Title X family planning program, which are expected to go into effect in 60 days.

Opponents are calling the changes a “gag rule” because health providers that receive Title X funding will no longer be able to refer patients for abortion services. The new policy also prohibits family planning services funded by the program from being housed in the same physical location as abortion providers.

“These restrictions threaten to undermine health care providers’ ability to serve their patients professionally,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement. “If these rules go into effect, Colorado will see an increase in teen births, unintended pregnancies and abortions.”

Other states joining the lawsuit include New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

California filed its own lawsuit against the Title X rule on Monday, with that state’s attorney general calling it an “attack on women’s health.”

“The Trump-Pence Administration’s sabotage of Title X services that millions of women across our nation rely on is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous to women’s health,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

However, the rule change has drawn supporters. It “draws a bright line” between family planning services and abortion, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a February statement.

“Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers will now have to choose between dropping their abortion services from any location that gets Title X dollars and moving those abortion operations offsite,” he said. ”Either way, this will loosen the group’s hold on tens of millions of tax dollars.”

Colorado’s health department on Monday “denounced” the new rule changes. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment receives about $3.8 million a year from the Title X program.

None of the money the department receives goes toward abortion services, but the agency said it contracts 29 organizations that provide family planning services in 76 clinics across Colorado. Under the new rule, physicians and other advanced providers at these facilities will not be able to refer patients for abortions.

Nurses, social workers and other counselors will also be prohibited from counseling women about abortions. Instead, that responsibility will fall on physicians and advanced providers, said Jody Camp, family planning section manager for the health department, in an interview.

The new rule could cut the number of providers in the Title X program and hinder “honest conversations and damage the strength of the provider-patient relationship,” the health department said in a news release.

“Our work is based on a commitment to ensuring all residents have access to care, and this rule eradicates the progress we’ve made,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the state health department,in a statement. “It will result in more unintended pregnancies, more sexually transmitted infections and more early-stage cancers that will go undetected. The men and women of our state deserve better.”

There is only one Title X provider in the state that also offers abortion services.

Since it will be challenged in court, Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center has no plans to alter its services in response to the rule changes, said spokeswoman Lisa Radelet.

“We are going to keep providing the care we have always provided,” she said. “We were the first abortion clinic in the state.”

Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center opened in 1973, months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling legalized abortions nationwide.

The center’s Title X funding does not go toward abortions. Those services are paid for by patients and their insurance companies. And the center has a fund — supported via private donations — to help low-income patients who can’t afford the costs, Radelet said.

“What this new rule does upends the whole intent of the program by inserting abortion politics into this program,” she said.

 

Read More on DenverPost.com


AG Weiser Announces Independent Review Of Past Priest Abuse Allegations In Colorado

Colorado Public Radio

State Attorney General Phil Weiser on Tuesday announced an independent investigation of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church in Colorado, along with other initiatives to support victims.

The review will be conducted by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, who left his position in October 2018.

Troyer will have access to archdiocese records and past abuse claims and will produce a public report that will also probe how well the church has responded to past abuse claims.

All three Catholic dioceses in the state will voluntarily participate in the initiative and although it’s not a criminal investigation, Weiser said Tuesday that referrals to law enforcement will be made when relevant.

“This is an independent inquiry with full cooperation of the Catholic church,” Weiser said. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table … They’re committed to transparency and they put victims first.”

In Troyer’s report, due out this fall, victims won’t be identified, but names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse will be, Weiser said.

Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila said there are no active priests in Colorado under “active investigation.” Father Randy Dollins, who works under Aquila and also attended the news conference, told CPR News last September that there had been no new allegations of sexual abuse on a minor in Colorado since 2002.

Aquila acknowledged the process in the coming months will include “painful moments.”

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest is profound,” Aquila said. “We pray that this will at least begin the healing process. We also acknowledge that the bright light of transparency needs to shine on the church’s history related to child abuse.”

The investigation is paid for, in part, by the Denver Archdiocese and in part by a private fund of cash raised by former Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who started this effort last year in wake of a sprawling investigation in 2018 by the Pennsylvania attorney general that found hundreds of priests were protected by church leaders over decades.

Aquila noted that the part of the investigation paid for by the church will not come from ministries or charities, but “reserves and assets.”

Weiser and Coffman both said they probed how they could conduct a Pennsylvania-style investigation into past clerical abuse in Colorado — and determined state’s jurisdictional laws does not give the authority to the attorney general to conduct a grand jury.

Coffman said she still felt a nagging obligation to protect Coloradans.

“My senior staff and I began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests in our state,” Coffman said. “We worked with colleagues … across the country including Pennsylvania … to compare approaches.”

Weiser and Coffman also announced a compensation fund for people with credible claims of sexual abuse, with no time limit, funded by the dioceses. This fund will be administered by two experts in victim compensation, who also worked on the Aurora theater shooting. The church won’t have any say on who will get paid.

There will also be and a victims/survivors assistance program that will help people file paperwork for reparations and provide counseling.

That local church leaders stood next to the state’s top lawyer to announce this agreement provided an unprecedented moment in Colorado. By cooperating with Weiser, the church avoids subpoenas or even potential legislation to conduct an investigation — both approaches are ongoing in other states.

Asked what mechanism Weiser has if the church decides to not be forthcoming in Troyer’s investigation, he said transparency. Troyer will note incidences of non-cooperation in his public report.

“It will be called out in the report, thereby providing what I believe is a very powerful check and force for accountability,” Weiser said. “We have a process that we’ve now come to and I want to see us implement this process and in the end … we will see what there is to learn from it.”

The independent investigation will be limited to abuse of minors, Weiser said, but to the extent they hear from other victims — nuns or seminarians, for example — he hopes anyone will eventually be able to access help.

The agreement comes at a time of international reckoning in the Catholic Church regarding clerical abuse. Pope Francis has gathered top bishops in Rome to address the problem, which has been dubbed the biggest crisis in the church since Reformation.

At least 10 other states have launched reviews or investigations and at least 45 other states have at least checked into it, according to news reports.

Read more on CPR.org


16 States File Lawsuit to Stop Trump's National Emergency Declaration


AG Weiser To Join California-Led Challenge To Trump’s Wall Declaration

Colorado Public Radio

BY

February 18, 2019

Colorado's Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser will join a multi-state legal challenge to President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

Weiser’s office said Sunday that the California-led effort plans to stop Trump's intention to divert money to build a southern border wall. The lawsuit will likely challenge the declaration’s constitutionality.

“We have fewer people going over the border today than anytime in quite some time,” Weiser told Colorado Matters. “And so to say that constitutes an emergency begs the question, ‘Something is not as bad as it was before when it was an emergency, and it's one now.’ That's a scary precedent.”

Weiser said the diversion of funds from federal military budgets could impact the state. The presence of those impacts will be key to Colorado — and other states — having standing to sue Trump in federal court.

“We as citizens need to be heard,” Weiser said. “I’m going to make sure that my voice on this is heard, that we all talk about the rule of law and are committed to protecting our nation as one that operates under the rule of law.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said this weekend that he is “confident there are at least 8 billion ways that we can prove harm” in the lawsuit, referring to the amount of federal money that will likely get redirected toward the wall.

Trump made the emergency declaration Friday, freeing billions of dollars up from military budgets to build the wall he made central to his presidential campaign in 2016.

The lawsuit has not been filed, but Becerra said Sunday that it was “imminent."

Read More on CPR.org.


New Colorado AG paves way for Clarence Moses-EL to receive $2M in wrongful conviction settlement

The Denver Post

A Denver man who spent 28 years in a Colorado prison for a crime he didn’t commit finally will get compensated by the state for his years behind bars.

At a news conference Thursday morning, new Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that the state will not oppose the petition of Clarence Moses-EL, who will receive nearly $2 million under the Colorado Exoneration Act.

He will be the second person to receive compensation under the 2013 law.

Weiser said the decision will save the state resources by not having to defend a case it would lose in court. He added that the justice system needs to do a better job in the future of preserving DNA evidence.

“This case is a travesty of justice,” Weiser said. “We will thus bring an end to this case and avoid the parties from having to relive this experience, and save the cost of bringing this to a full trial.”

The previous attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, in November elected to push the civil lawsuit into the next administration. Coffman had fought against compensating Moses-EL, arguing that just because a jury acquitted him at his retrial, that does not prove he’s innocent.

Moses-EL was convicted in 1987 of raping and beating a neighbor and sentenced to 48 years in prison. From the beginning, he insisted he was innocent and that the victim falsely identified him.

“Mr. Moses-EL is grateful to Attorney General Weiser for working to heal the harm that has been done to him by the state of Colorado,” Gail Johnson, one of Moses-EL’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Although no amount of money can give Mr. Moses-EL back the half of his life that was lost to the Colorado prison system, this compensation will help him and his family recover from this traumatic ordeal.”

Weiser pointed to the destruction of DNA evidence as a critical blunder that should not be fought by his office.

“We have to learn from this … tragic mistake and action,” he said. “It’s costly to the state … there is, I believe, now a clear and powerful example of both the financial and human costs.”

Weiser said he spoke to the victim in this case, alerting her of his decision. The case remains unsolved.

“She’s remarkable, in that she’s been through a lot,” the attorney general said. “She understood that the legal situation here required me to act in this way.”

Weiser said he did not speak directly with Moses-EL before making his decision, only to his attorneys.

The circumstances behind this case raised questions from the outset, with several twists and turns through the years.

Moses-EL’s accuser identified him as the attacker after a dream while medicated and hospitalized because of injuries received in the incident. Denver police then mistakenly destroyed DNA evidence. Later, another inmate confessed to the crime, but recanted.

After a judge in 2015 granted him a new trial, Moses-EL refused to accept a plea bargain in the case. Then, in November 2016, a jury acquitted him after the retrial.

During his campaign, Weiser indicated he would be open to exploring a settlement in the case.

The Colorado Exoneration Act compensates wrongly convicted individuals $70,000 for each year they spent behind bars. For Moses-EL, that equates to nearly $2 million.

Fourteen days after the court orders directed payment, he will receive $100,000, said Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for the attorney general. Moses-EL can then receive a lump sum after a year, Pacheco said, adding that the state court administrator is responsible for payment.

He still has a separate civil rights lawsuit pending against the city, a former district attorney and police investigators, seeking unspecified damages.

Since his release from prison, Moses-EL has spoken around the world about his wrongful conviction, along with mentoring at-risk children.

Read More at DenverPost.com


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